Mathematics for All Students

In April 001990, the NCTM Board of Directors endorsed the following statement:

As a professional organization and as individuals within that organization, the Board of Directors sees the comprehensive mathematics education of every child as its most compelling goal.

By every child we mean specificallly

  • students who have been denied access in any way to educational opportunities as well as those who have not;

  • students who are African American, Hispanic, American Indian, and other minorities as well as those who are considered to be a part of the majority;

  • students who are female as well as those who are male; and

  • students who have not been successful in school and in mathematics as well as those who have been successful.

tasks can produce fairer measures of all students' intellectual development.3 Others have cautioned that new assessment content and methods alone can not assure equity:

The call for performance assessment did not derive from concerns for fairness or equal access… Well designed assessment systems might act as a lens to more clearly reveal existing and ongoing inequalities, and to inform policy and practice… but only if explicitly designed to do so in all its parts.4

Designing for equity requires conscientious rethinking of not just what we assess and how we do it, but how different individuals and groups are affected by assessment design and procedures. It also requires conscientious attention to how we use assessment results to make decisions about individual children and the schools they attend.


To meet the equity principle, tasks must be designed to give children a sense of accomplishment, to challenge the upper reaches of each child's mathematical understanding, and to provide a window on each student's mathematical thinking. Just as good instruction accommodates differences in the ways learners construct knowledge, good assessments accommodate differences in the ways that students think about mathematics and display mathematical understanding. Although all students are to be assessed on important mathematical concepts and skills, in accord with the content and learning principles, the equity principle implies that assessments must be sufficiently flexible to allow all students to show what they know and can do.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement